GPs should opportunistically ask patients whether they have recently travelled from banned countries, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
Patients should also be asked whether they are a contact of someone returning from a country listed on the travel ban, it added.
PHE guidance on the management of six Covid variants of concern, including the South Africa, Brazil and Kent mutations, said patients presenting for care should be asked about their travel history and contacts regardless of whether or not they display symptoms.
The guidance, updated last week, said: ‘Anyone seeking routine or emergency care (whether or not they present with Covid-19 symptoms) should be asked about recent travel to the countries listed in the travel ban and whether they are a contact of a returning traveller from these countries.’
It added that ‘any person at risk seeking access to non-urgent outpatient, ambulatory or primary care, or elective treatment, should defer their appointment until their 10-day isolation period has ended unless their need is considered urgent’.
Patients ‘at risk’ include those who have visited or travelled through any banned countries and develop Covid symptoms or test positive within 10 days of departure, those ‘known to be infected’ with a variant of concern regardless of travel history and their contacts, PHE said.
However, it added that ‘travel-associated risk alone is sufficient to take action’.
GPs should advise such patients to stay at home if they develop symptoms, continue to follow infection prevtion and control advice and use the recommended PPE ‘for individuals on the high risk pathway’, the guidance said.
It comes as the Government has revealed it is planning for a Covid revaccination campaign, which is ‘likely to run later this year in autumn or winter’ and may involve tweaked booster shots to tackle virus variants.
Meanwhile, the vaccines minister said earlier this month that patients wishing to travel should ask their GP for written evidence they have been vaccinated against Covid.